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February 2023Vol. 24, No. 1QIC-EY Asks a Foundational Question: What Is Authentic Engagement of Children and Youth?

Before beginning the work of advancing child welfare programs and practice to ensure the authentic engagement and empowerment of children and youth, the Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency (QIC-EY) had to explore a fundamental question and, in doing so, define what authentic engagement of children and youth meant and how to elevate these efforts in child welfare. To answer this question and set a solid foundation for the project, the QIC-EY completed an environmental scan of the current child and youth engagement landscape and identified strengths and areas in need of improvement. QIC-EY leadership also worked in connection with its National Youth Engagement Advisory Council, the Workforce Council, and other partners. This collective effort resulted in the QIC-EY’s definition of authentic youth engagement.  


Authentic engagement means actively and intentionally partnering with children and youth about their lives, on their terms, and in ways that make sense to them. To authentically engage children and youth, child welfare staff must use the following strategies:

  • Be committed, flexible, self-aware, and open to shared decision-making
  • Use strong communication skills to build trusting relationships with children and youth
  • Be guided by knowledge of child and adolescent development and trauma-informed care
  • Use a strength-based approach
  • Have a vivid self-awareness of potential power dynamics
  • Have cultural humility 
  • Partner with, prepare, inform, and advocate for children and youth

With the definition in place and core elements for professionals clearly laid out, the QIC-EY continues its work engaging pilot sites and developing a training curriculum and coaching materials. Stay tuned for updates from the QIC-EY by joining the mailing list.